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UN expert urges Belarus to cooperate on improving human rights situation

Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklós Haraszti.
OSCE/Susanna Lööf
Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklós Haraszti.

UN expert urges Belarus to cooperate on improving human rights situation

An independent United Nations expert today urged the Government of Belarus to grant his request for an official visit the country and to engage with his mandate to improve its human rights situation.

“Human rights are systematically restricted in Belarus through different measures: decrees, policies and practice,” said Special Rapporteur on Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, speaking after his mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council for another year.

“The fulfilment of human rights remains purposefully blocked by a governance system that is devoid of any checks and balances.”

The Special Rapporteur said he was unable to visit Belarus and talk to officials during his first mandate, having received no response to his requests from the Government. He had gathered facts by talking to a great variety of Belarusian sources during several trips to neighbouring countries.

An urgent issue to be addressed was the unconditional release of human rights activists and political opponents imprisoned on spurious criminal charges, the UN expert said.

“Rule of law is not identical with ruling by law,” Mr. Haraszti said. “True stability and economic prosperity for a country rest on full respect for human rights. In my life, I have seen many times that if there is political will in these areas, progress can be mutually rewarding for Government and society.”

Mr. Haraszti said other particular concerns included: enforced disappearances; arbitrary arrests and detention; harassment of imprisoned political opponents and human rights defenders; the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the death penalty, Belarus being the only country in Europe that executes people.

“This is the situation where the Council, through this mandate, needs to support the promotion and protection of human rights in Belarus.”

Among his recommendations for sustainable improvement to the human rights situation in the country, Mr. Haraszti cited guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and bar associations; establishing judicial procedural safeguards; abolishing the system of arbitrary arrest and detention, among others.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.